Pitt loses to lowly Wake Forest; skid up to 16 games
With slumped shoulders and sagging spirits, Pitt coach Kevin Stallings said Wednesday night he's worried more about his players than his job security.
"I'm here to help these guys be successful," he said after the 63-57 loss to Wake Forest, "and I'm not doing a good enough job of that right now."
Still, the question of how to prop up a program that attracted a meager crowd of 2,420 — a record low at the Pete for a conference game — continues to shadow this team. Pitt (8-21, 0-16) has lost a school-record 16 games in a row. It entered the night as one of only five Division I teams that are winless in conference play.
Even Stallings, a college coach for a quarter-century, seemed puzzled after Pitt hit only two two-point shots in the second half.
Sometimes, it's a lack of offensive rebounding. Other nights, careless ball-handling is the culprit. Those things were better against Wake Forest — Stallings didn't agree when a reporter asked if it's frustrating that his team is not improving — but he said something else was bothering after this loss.
This game appeared winnable because Wake Forest (11-17, 4-12) is closest to last-place Pitt in the ACC standings.
"We felt like this was our opportunity to get the 'W,' " senior guard Jonathan Milligan said.
But Wake Forest did the things necessary to win; Pitt did not.
"I thought the difference in the game was, honestly, that (Wake Forest) played like they had some experience, and we just kept doing things that seemingly didn't … we didn't play with enough discipline to win this game," Stallings said. "There are new and different lessons they have to learn every game."
He was especially perturbed late in the game when freshman Marcus Carr fouled Wake Forest's Brandon Childress on a 3-point attempt near the end of the shot clock. At the time, Stallings turned away from the court and walked to the end of his bench.
Childress made all three foul shots to turn a 48-44 lead to a seven-point advantage with 3 minutes, 43 seconds left.
Carr and Jared Wilson-Frame led Pitt with 11 points apiece, but the team struggled to make easy shots at the beginning and end of the second half. Some of the shots weren't that difficult, Stallings said.
"Three or four or five (shots) were like you're playing H-O-R-S-E and (Pitt) doesn't make one," he said. "You have to make shots, too."
At the end of the game, with Pitt trailing by four, Wilson-Frame missed a wide-open dunk.
Stallings didn't reference that miss — one of 20 in 28 attempts after halftime — but he couldn't help but mention others.
"I could call out mistakes that were made in the last two or three minutes of this game that completely goes against what we practiced and what we teach and how we work," he said. "That wouldn't do any good."
Speculating on his future won't do him any good, either, he said.
"It doesn't matter what I think," he said. "I think those questions need to be asked of the athletic director."
To date, athletic director Heather Lyke has made no definitive statement on Stallings' future.
"We'll keep coaching them," he said. "I'll keep doing what I'm supposed to do until I'm told time's up or whatever."
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.